There was a moment on Wednesday night where if anybody who did not know what Mike Gesicki was really thinking would have thought he had made his decision to play collegiate football at Ohio State.
Gesicki, Southern Regional’s highly-recruited senior receiver, was in his bedroom and had on an Ohio State sweatshirt.
Everyone had known for the last two weeks that the 6-foot-5 ½, 235-pound Gesicki, who had 22 scholarship offers, had narrowed his decision to Ohio State and Penn State.
“I was saying, ‘This is probably the last time I’ll be wearing red (Ohio State’s main color) for a while,’ ” said Gesicki Friday at a press conference at Southern. “It didn’t feel right anymore. I have the utmost respect for Ohio State and coach Meyer (Ohio State coach Urban Meyer) and that coaching staff there. They’re phenomenal people.”
It was at that moment where Gesicki, who most recruiting analysts have rated as the No. 1 tight end prospect in the country, made his decision to make a non-binding, oral commitment to Penn State. He announced the decision Thursday night. and expanded on the reasoning for it on Friday.
Gesicki is the second Southern player to commit to Penn State in recent years. Former Rams standout Glenn Carson is Penn State’s senior starting middle linebacker.
“I really couldn’t have made a bad choice,” Gesicki said. “It was like comparing apples to apples. There wasn’t like a deciding factor I could put my finger on. I was just following my gut and following my heart. I had to make the right decision for myself.”
Then, Thursday night, there were two different kinds of phone calls Gesicki had to make — one that was extremely difficult — and one that was a happy one.
Meyer, who coached Florida to two national championships and is 18-0 in his 1 ½ seasons at Ohio State was the first call. He said Meyer did not try to change his mind. He just wanted to know the reasoning for the decision.
“He’s a phenomenal head coach and phenomenal man. A lot of people have different opinions on him, but I will stick up for that man as long as I play football and people ask me questions about him,” Gesicki said. “I think making that phone call was almost just as hard as making the decision. I just told him, ‘I was following my gut and my heart. It was just telling me Penn State’s home.’ He was very understanding. He wished me the best of luck. I wished him the best of luck.”
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien was the next call. Gesicki said O’Brien asked him if he had good news for him. Gesicki told O’Brien he had just gotten off the phone with Meyer and had told Meyer he was not going to Ohio State and was going to Penn State.
“He (O’Brien) was yelling through the phone and he was (saying), ‘Oh, yeah. I’m excited,’ ” Gesicki said. “He told me all the things he wanted to do with me. It was a little loud in the ear, but it was awesome.”
In the minds of many observers, what happened last Saturday night when Penn State rallied for a dramatic, 43-40, four-overtime win over previously-unbeaten Michigan before almost 108,000 at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium played a major role in Gesicki’s decision. Last weekend was Gesicki’s official visit to Penn State. He had made his official visit to Ohio State for the Buckeyes’ 31-24 win over Wisconsin on Sept. 28.
“The actual game itself played zero role in me going to Penn State,” Gesicki said. “After the game, the actual visit — me hanging out with Hackenberg (Penn State’s highly-talented freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg) and being around the guys — that’s what kind of won me over. I felt so comfortable that I felt I could call that place home for the next 4-5 years.”
Hackenberg and freshman tight end Adam Breneman, were Gesicki’s hosts for his visit. Gesicki formed a close bond with both of them, especially Hackenberg.
“He’s a phenomenal quarterback, but the person he is is much better than what he shows on the field,” Gesicki said. “He’s a great guy to be around. He made me feel like I was at home for the very small amount of time I was there. You wouldn’t know he’s 18 years old and he’s the starting quarterback and leading the Big Ten in passing as a true freshman. That’s what kind of drew me to him.”
Gesicki said O’Brien, who was the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator for head coach Bill Belichick before he became Penn State’s coach in January, 2012, after the firing of the late, legendary Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, has told him he has no plans to redshirt him.
O’Brien utilizes an offense that places a heavy emphasis on tight ends. Penn State runs many multiple tight end sets — similar to what New England ran when O’Brien was there. Gesicki is not a pure tight end. He is more of a hybrid, who can line up in the slot or out wide. He said he has never lined up with his hand on the ground in his scholastic career, but will have to line up some with his hand on the ground in college.
“I see myself just slipping right in,” Gesicki said. “Coach O’Brien says if he had 11 tight ends, he’d play them all. He loves that position. Gesicki said O’Brien, who last year was on the list of several NFL teams who had coaching vacancies for head coach and could be on the list of some more NFL teams who have coaching vacancies after this season, has told him he will be at Penn State for his entire career.
“He loves that university and he loves the people there. In my opinion, I don’t think he’s going anywhere. He’s told me he’s not going anywhere,” Gesicki said.